The Great Salt Lake is actually two lakes. A highly saline (330-gml−1) northern arm and a moderately saline (120-gml−1) southern arm separated by a semipermeable rock causeway. The lake, particularly the northern arm, has a massive accumulation of organic matter resulting from more than 100,000 years of productivity, cycling from a freshwater to a saline lake, plus the influence of human industry and agriculture in more recent times. The north arm planktonic and attached community consists principally of, in order of biomass: bacteria of at least two genera,Halobacterium andHalococcus; two algae,Dunaliella salina andD. viridis; the brine shrimp,Anemia salina; and, two species of brine fly,Ephydra gracilis andE. hians and possibly one more species. The algae and the bacteria appear to depend on each other for nutrients. The bacteria use organic matter produced by the algae and the algae use ammonia produced by the bacteria and possibly the brine shrimp. The production of ammonia appears to be the rate-limiting step although there is no shortage of other forms of nitrogen in the north arm. Based on aquarium studies, the potential for biomass production of algae and bacteria is much higher than actually observed in the north arm, leading to the postulation of two additional factors controlling population; the grazing of the algae by invertebrates with the excretion of compounds rich in nitrogen, and the effect of a low habitat temperature and winter cold on the bacteria, reducing their metabolic activities to nearly zero. Some aspects of the various organisms and their metabolism are discussed. A comparison is made with recent work on the Dead Sea.
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